Trade reactions

INDUSTRY LEADERS SAY WHAT THE LIFTING OF THE BEEF BAN MEANS TO THEM AND

WELCOME NEWS FOR BRITAIN - BMPA

The BMPA welcomes last week's unanimous decision by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health to support the lifting of the ban on the export of beef from the UK. This decision will lead to the resumption of exports of beef and beef products slaughtered on or after 15 June 2005, and the export of live cattle born on or after 1 August 1996.

"The UK will need to adjust national legislation for beef-on-the-bone, and reduce the current 30 months for the removal of the vertebral column to 24 months, bringing the UK in line with other member states and all this will take a number of weeks. Defra will also need to draft national legislation," said BPMA director Maurice McCartney

"We may see first exports from end of May or early June. This is welcome news for British farmers and processors," he added

NOW IT'S ON TO THE NEXT STAGE - SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION OF MEAT WHOLESALERS

The resumption of UK beef exports is tremendous news for the whole of Scotland's beef industry, said Isla Roebuck, President of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW). "This day has been a long time coming, a fact which makes the ending of the UK's exile from the EU marketplace all the better for everyone concerned," he said. "The hard work, along with a significant investment of time and money, which many meat companies in Scotland have put into preparations for the re-opening of export outlets can now be taken onto the next and vital stage of securing real business.

"Indications from potential buyers have been encouraging for several months. The task now is to convert this potential into reality. Having waited so long for today's breakthrough, the process of rebuilding a trade which was so valuable to Scotland prior to 1996 is the sort of challenge we can all cope with. I also wish to make special mention of the hard work put in by DEFRA and SEERAD. Officials in both departments, working closely with industry leaders, have shown great determination in helping to create this successful conclusion."

YEARS OF HARD WORK PAYS OFF - EBLEX

The vote in Europe paving the way towards lifting the 10-year-old restrictions on British beef exports has been welcomed by John Cross, Chairman of the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

Mr Cross said that years of hard work by the whole industry and the government was finally paying off.

"This is an important move forward which will allow our beef industry to exploit the contacts that EBLEX and the Meat and Livestock Commission have spent many years nurturing with the trade across the EU," he said.

"Access to export markets will help assure a more stable future for our beef producers and processors, and means our industry will no longer be isolated from the EU market. Our beef industry can now start to get on with the job of providing overseas customers with the quality product they are clearly telling us they want."

A LONG TIME COMING - MEAT PROMOTION WALES/HCC

"This has been a long time coming and the lifting of the ban is a huge boost in confidence to our beef industry. Over thirty month cattle were reintroduced into the food chain in the UK last November and now, over four months on, we have reached our goal of lifting the export ban. This is a pivotal day in the history of our industry, said HCC chairman Rees Robert.

"The lifting of the ban is of great importance to the farming industry on many levels. The original export ban brought an end to over 250,000 tonnes of beef exports from the UK, hitting the agricultural economy and the rural areas of Wales hard," he added.

HCC has worked hard to maintain strong connections with Europe. A programme has been implemented in the export market, identifying opportunities by creating a receptive environment for companies to develop successful businesses for the long term. This includes communication with trade customers and consumers abroad of the high safety and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) credentials standards of Welsh Beef.

"We now have parity in terms of market access. There is undeniably demand from European customers and now opportunities need to be turned into real business deals, " he said.

"Promotional events are taking place in relation to key markets, including participation in fairs, exhibitions, and other trade events in targeted export markets. Mr Roberts concluded: "Our whole supply chain is extremely robust, our product is top quality, we have the PGI status behind us and there is demand for our Welsh Beef abroad. There are brighter days ahead."

AN IMPORTANT MOVE FORWARD - LIVESTOCK AND MEAT COMMISION

Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) expressed its delight at the decision. The Northern Ireland beef industry has carried a particularly heavy burden due to this trade restriction over the last decade and is now looking forward to resuming normal trading conditions. It will now be possible for the industry to work towards the long-held LMC objective where every part of every animal is available to the best paying customer, said David Rutledge, LMC Chief Executive.

"While there is a massive amount of work to be done and it will inevitably take some years to re-establish our former position, we are confident that the quality standards of our industry, our powerful system of traceability and our natural grass-based production systems can once again be established as a premium supply base for discerning European customers," he added.

"LMC last year commissioned research to examine the opportunities for Northern Ireland beef and lamb industries in a number of European markets. This information will be released to the industry shortly. Naomi Waite, head of marketing at LMC said: "The industry will be aware that LMC has secured additional funding from Government through the Beef Restoration Programme of £1.2 million over the next three years. This funding will be used to drive distribution and consumer demand through a number of means. We will lead the industry at a number of international trade shows and organise trade visits, in-store demonstrations of our products and we will participate in a range of press and electronic media activity in an endeavour to re-establish the premium position for Northern Ireland beef, which we enjoyed before the export ban.

A CHANCE FOR A BREAKTHROUGH - NATIONAL BEEF ASSOCIATION

The re-opening of unrestricted beef sales to other EU countries after mid-April gives UK beef farmers their best chance for 10 years to break the supermarket stranglehold on farm prices and introduce life giving competition into a loss making industry.

"The importance of this decision cannot be over-estimated. The export ban has forced our beef industry to suffocate in isolation but now there is a chance it can be revived by the financial oxygen generated through access to a wider range of freer spending customers," said NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

It is expected that the most immediate commercial reaction will be in the manufacturing beef market. An indication of what can be expected was given by last week's domestic cull cow average of around 120p/dwkg which compares with 159p in Germany, 177p in France, and 166p in the Netherlands.

"As soon as beef from cows born after July 1996 can be exported in sufficient volume UK prices will move closer to those paid elsewhere and everyone offering an export specification animal will benefit," said Mr Forster.

"Deadweight averages paid for prime cattle look good too with 220p being offered in Spain, 250p in Italy, 228p in France and 220p in Germany while the UK price drags well behind at just 197p. The importance of once again being able to link in with the strong beef market in Continental Europe cannot be underestimated. This applies to live cattle as well as beef. The NBA expects deliveries of pedigree animals to begin as soon as the green light is given in about six weeks' time and these could soon be followed by the sale of weaned suckler calves into Spain and Italy and dairy bred calves into the Netherlands and France.

"This activity will raise the value of all cattle across the UK and add much needed value to farm balance sheets as well as give a welcome lift to incomes on breeding farms."

BILLION POUND MARKET BECKONS - NATIONAL FARMERS' UNION

The imminent resumption of beef exports offers Britain's farmers the chance to recapture the £675m market, which was lost when the ban was imposed in 1996.

The decision, which should be enacted by European Parliament in coming weeks, will put Britain's farmers back on an even standing with other farmers within the common market. It will provide access to markets like France, where beef is wholesaling for over 25p per kilo more than it is in the UK.

The unanimous vote by the EC's veterinary science group, SCoFCAH (Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health) is recognition that the British beef industry has met all scientific, veterinary and public health criteria required for the ban to be lifted said NFU President, Peter Kendall,

"This is the most positive news for the British beef industry in a decade. We can now look forward to recapturing the £675m market that was lost when the ban was put in place. This decision should create competition in the domestic market and provide access to potentially lucrative continental buyers," he said.

"Since 1996 we have worked tirelessly in Brussels and Whitehall to gain re-admittance to the Common Market and this decision recognises that the industry has put in place structures which not only meet but exceed European food safety requirements.

"We are now back on an even footing with our competitors in the EC and I believe the quality of the British product will ensure that we begin to recapture our share of beef sales on the continent as soon as the ban is officially lifted."

A NEW DAWN FOR THE INDUSTRY - QUALITY MEAT SCOTLAND

Quality Meat Scotland, the red meat industry body welcomes the long awaited announcement from Brussels that the 10 year ban on UK beef exports has finally been lifted.

It is estimated that the exit from the Date Based Export Scheme, the regulations in place to restrict exports, is likely to take around a month. Scotch beef back could be back on sale in Europe before the end of April, said QMS Interim Chairman Donald Biggar

"The announcement signals a new dawn for our industry which has had to operate under the cloud of an effective ban on a fifth of its market for a decade.

"We know that we have a long way to go before we are selling the volumes of Scotch beef into Europe that we were 10 years ago but the work to rebuild this important trade has already begun.

"Our research shows that, despite the ban, the reputation of Scotch beef as an excellent product is undiminished in Europe and undoubtedly this will help pave the way for Scottish companies to rebuild their trading links with the likes of France, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium."

Meanwhile a leading Dutch importer has taken the step of sourcing beef from Scotland through DBES in advance of the announcement in order that his customers can be among the first celebrate the lifting of the ban with a special Scotch beef lunch taking place in Amsterdam.

Eimer Tikkens who heads up Chateaubriand, an Amsterdam based meat company, visited Scotland in February as part of an inward mission organised by QMS, said Mr Biggar.

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